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edwin jackson cubsWithout falling into a vanity trap, I can say with confidence that there is a fair history of big Cubs news breaking on Friday or Saturday when I’d otherwise scheduled a little leisure time for myself. When the Cubs announced that Jim Hendry had been fired, I was literally in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park. You can tell from the post that something was off, and that something was me getting intermittent service on my then terrible BlackBerry to try and post updates as I simultaneously followed press conferences on that same terrible BlackBerry. I think, at the time, I didn’t want to admit that I was playing hooky in the afternoon on a Friday to have some fun with friends.

Now, we’re much closer, so I have no problem admitting it to you: I’m going to be having some fun with friends today. Because it’s obviously a potential news-and-rumor-heavy day, because of my bad-luck history on Fridays, I’m fully expecting something big to happen while I’m out at a long lunch, or later, when I’m out with friends. No worries: I’ll still be on it, but if big news breaks between 11 am CT and 1 pm CT or after 4:30 pm CT, I may not be able to give it the same depth of attention as I usually would (but I’ll try).

  • ESPN broke down – using PitchF/X data – the ten pitchers with the best “stuff” in baseball. Number one (Matt Harvey) and number four (Jeff Samardzija) probably don’t surprise you, but how about number ten … it’s Edwin Jackson. When Jackson’s results stabilize and match what his peripherals have been telling us all year, I’m not going to beat my chest and say “I told you so” (though I did), but only because lots of people have been saying the same thing. Jackson is better, and has been better, than a 5+ ERA suggests. He might not always be the guy that dismantled the Cardinals last night, but he might be closer to that guy than he is to a guy that you decry as a “bust” after two months of pitching into a four-year contract.
  • How did Jackson do so well last night? You guessed it: conviction. “Tonight, he was really sharp against the best offense in baseball,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, per Cubs.com. “He had a lot more conviction with his pitches, and wasn’t worried about pitching as much as throwing. He pitched well tonight, had command, was hitting his spots, and had a really good slider. He got ahead, which I think was the biggest thing.”
  • Set aside five minutes, and really dig into this profile on Albert Almora. That’s from our friend Sahadev, and it’s loaded with information about one of the Cubs’ best prospects. One bit non-specific to Almora from VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod merits highlighting. “We’re pretty excited about these guys [Almora, Baez, Soler, and Bryant], but these guys are pretty far away right now,” McLeod told Sharma. “We all know what happens to prospects. Yeah, it’d be awesome to see all four of those guys and more up in the big leagues in a couple years. But history tells us that is probably not going to happen. There’s no doubt they’re really exciting and they have tremendous potential, but none of them have played past Double-A yet. That’s something that’s not lost on any of us in the front office. We keep a level head about where they are, and as excited as we get, we always remember that.” Bingo.
  • Scott Baker explained to the media why he apologized to the Cubs for the setback that derailed his Tommy John recovery, even though it obviously wasn’t his fault. “My reasoning for that was I don’t want anybody to ever think I didn’t have the intention of being a servicable pitcher right from the beginning of the season,” Baker said, per Carrie Muskat. “I guess [apologizing] wasn’t necessary but I wanted them to know [the setback] happened, and it stinks, but I did everything I could to be ready for the start of the season.” It’s all good, Scott. Baker also noted that, just as Jed Hoyer said the other day, he has given thought to returning to the Cubs next year, as they are on the verge of becoming very good.
  • Speaking of Baker, his bullpen session in Chicago yesterday went well, and he’s now expected to start a rehab stint at Kane County on Sunday.
  • David DeJesus will likely head to Arizona over the break to continue his rehab (shoulder strain), and the Cubs are hopeful he can start playing in games there as soon as Monday. If he takes two weeks for a rehab stint, he wouldn’t be back until just a few days before the Trade Deadline, if you’re keeping score of that kind of thing.
  • Keith Law did his weekly chat, and among the Cubs-related bits: (1) Law questions whether the Javier Baez promotion to AA came too quickly; (2) because of the uncertainty in the market and the long-term nature of the payoffs, Law thinks the Cubs’ (apparent) blow the budget strategy in the international market could be a good one; (3) Law questions whether Junior Lake can play multiple defensive positions well enough to be a utility player in the bigs; (4) Law sees the Cubs getting a top 100 prospect in a deal for Matt Garza, but not two; (5) Law has always liked Shawon Dunston, Jr., but this is becoming something of a big “prove it” year for him; (6) Law is not as optimistic about Trevor Gretkzy; and (7) way too early to worry about any bat speed issues with Kris Bryant.
  • Dan Vogelbach isn’t quite killing the ball like he did last year, but I love seeing quotes like this from his manager Mark Johnson: “Dan’s obviously a really good hitter. What’s big for him from last year, where I had him in Boise, his defense has gotten way better. That was his big thing. He struggled on defense some, but he’s been working on it. He knows he has to work on his flexibility, has to work on his hands and his feet. He knows it’s not all about hitting any more. When he accepted that challenge, he really started to improve.”
  • Reality Check

    it would appear cubs fans are going to be underwhelmed by the Garza trade.
    FO should of moved him back in 2011; there has been no attempt to contend since theo took over so there really was no reason to keep him if he would not sign long term. Garza is a HUGE bullet in this rebuilding scheme; somehow getting just 1 top 100 is quite depressing.

    • BluBlud

      I completely disagree with that. If we get a top 100 and 2 more organizatiol top 10’s that could be consider top 200(do they even count that high) in baseball for guy 2 months from free agency, how can that be underwhelming. If Theo can pull that off, i would consider it a great deal.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That’s what I think is appropriate value for Garza, and I would be very happy with that return.

        • BluBlud

          What isn’t appropriate is my typing over the last few weeks. I have never been the best at typing or writing, as I tend to type fast and never proof read, but the last 2 weeks have been horrible.

          • hansman1982

            It’s your lack of Proofing Eye. You seem to have decent key-contact skills; however, seeing which one to hit and drive, is a challenge for you.

            • BluBlud

              Theo told me he could correct my Proofing eye. I actually don’t think it’s a lack of proofing eye though, I think it’s that this level of blog commenting is just not challenging my skills. Once I get a promotion, I show more of it.

              • Edwin

                I think you need to type with more conviction.

              • Jason

                Sounds like someone is lacking TWTW: The Will to Type Well

        • Frank

          Brett,
          What do you think the chances are that Garza is traded and is then signed long term by the Cubs in free agency? Worth it?

          • BluBlud

            I actually think it’s pretty high, but most people don’t. I think he has a family that wants to stay in Chicago, as he constantly states how they love it there. I also think he a guy who likes day games, as he has made statements about being home at night. So, I think if the money is close and the Cubs are open to a return, I can’t see him turning it down.

          • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

            This has been discussed ad nauseum.

            The consensus on this site has been that those sorts of moves never happen.

            No one could even name one that had happened in the past.

            • DReese

              Reed Johnson?

              • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

                I think the trading of a big name player with the intention of resigning him in the off season is the plan in question. I have a terrible memory and I’m not one of the baseball brains on this site, but I think the Reed Johnson thing was just fortunate happenstance.

                I was just trying to Frank’s question as quickly and simply as possible.

              • DReese

                But it did happen, which gives hope

              • hansman1982

                When was Reed traded by the Cubs and resigned that offseason?

            • Stinky Pete

              Without looking, I want to say Jason Schmidt or the fat guy that punched a judge in Aruba. (Like I said, I’m not looking.)

              • HCS

                Sidney Ponson?

                • Stinky Pete

                  Yeah yeah. That guy!

            • fearbobafett

              Rickey Henderson was traded in 93 from Oak to the BlueJays and signed quickly that off-season back with Oak.

              Sure it is very uncommon but can happen. Do i think Garza will, NO.

            • ACA

              Kenny Lofton

          • Stinky Pete

            I see it this way. They are going to trade him. Then he will be a free agent. Solid free agent pitcher? You bet your ass they’re going to go after him. But they are two separate events. I don’t believe in any elaborate under the table plan to orchestrate the entire scenario.

            • gcheezpuff

              I doubt it happens and the biggest reason might be because they might not need to sign another SP to a long term contract yet. Cubs may already be locked for next year with Shark, wood, Ejax. They are already talking about bringing Scott Baker back, and they might bring back an MLB ready arm in the Garza trade. Plus other trades might get them more SP depth. If anything, I could see them signing another Maholm/Feldman type to flip, but with a possible Shark ext coming, Ejax locked, and Wood kicking ass. I think they want to fill out the rotation with low cost high upside guys. Not the best FA SP on the market, especially because, as good as he is, he isn’t an ace.

      • baldtaxguy

        Here, Here!! Three pieces for a two-month rental would exceed my expectations.

        • On The Farm

          It’s not enough.

          ITS MY MONEY, AND I NEED IT NOW!

      • Reality Check

        And his return in 2011 would be much higher. Keeping Garza since 2011 has done nothing for the team. This is ” accepting” less in return ; not Ok.

    • rickyp024

      The Cubs acquired him in 2011, why would they trade for him just to trade him away? I may be in the minority here, but I pretty much disagree with all points that you made.

      • Eternal pessemist

        Remember, Garza has the right to test the market, which is exactly what he seems to want to do. If he wants to max his contract, instead of giving a hometown discount to the Cubs, the Cubs have no choice but to wIt till he hits free agency. You may as well trade him for some pieces, cause he will cost you the same amount this summer anyway…and maybe you get him cheap if he is re-injured.

  • BluBlud

    Jackson has benn great lately!

    Almora is an absolte stud. Still needs to add more power or take more walks.

    I have a feeling that all 4 of these prospect will be at least average in the BIgs.

    Would love to have baker back.

    Baez didn’t get promoted to fast and Dunston may be a year, himself, from becoming a top 100 prospect.

    Is Dan Vogelbach is an average defensive firstbaseman, then most certainly should be a top 100 prospect.

  • North Side Irish

    I was at the game last night and saw some bad swings from the Cardinals. Looked like Jackson had them off balance all night. They started hitting some balls hard in the 6th and 7th, but it was still nice to see Sveum let Jackson stay out there.

    Was a pretty sad crowd for a Cubs-Cardinals game in July…tons of empty seats. Announced crowd was over 35,000, but I’d say there were maybe 28K in attendance.

  • Oswego chris

    Damn you Brett…and your existence outside of the Cubs and BN!

    • frank

      Chris–just wanted to let you know I loved the book–if only it wasn’t such a sad story . . .

      • CubsFanSaxMan

        Same here. It was a good read. Very entertaining. Having lived through more than half of those years, your book brought back many fond (?) memories. Thanks again.

  • Jon

    Almora is an interesting case, obviously his BA is driving his OBP, not walks, but is it luck, or his he hitting for such a high average because he just isn’t challenged by low A pitching?

    • On The Farm

      I would have to think the latter considering his low K% (11.8), he doesn’t appear to be overmatched and he has the ability to capitalize on pitcher’s mistakes, rather than be selective and wait for his pitch.

    • AB

      From people that have seen him play there seem to be two things.
      1) He is not missing very much on pitches he chooses to swing at
      2) He handles and squares the bat on the ball very well, and isn’t off balanced.

    • jt

      “Almora… is it luck?”
      0.527 SLG is not luck.

    • Kyle

      Both

  • PKJ

    Have you ever considered giving up the reigns of the website for a couple hours to someone you trust when you’re out? It’s a great blog and this is the first place I come when there’s breaking Cubs news.

    • mjhurdle

      i nominate Die Hard to post articles in Brett’s absence.

      • Fishin Phil

        You are a sick individual. I kind of like that.

      • On The Farm

        Only if Timmy isn’t available, he seems to be pretty optimistic of the team

  • Hawk Harrelson

    I believe that what you term “conviction” is actually “TWTW” (“The Will to Win”), the most important stat in all of the entire universe of universes.

    • Fishin Phil

      Also known as Belly Fire!

  • TommyK

    Where would you put the over/under on how many of the big four prospects become above average major leaguers? I’d put it at 2.5 and take the under.

    • Jon

      That sounds about right. I think Bryant and Soler will be the two, Baez I still see as hit or miss. Almora I think has the lowest ceiling but the highest floor, he will be a big leaguer for sure, and provide great D, but I don’t know about his power and walks.

    • BluBlud

      I don’t know if there have ever been 4 prospects, this good, in a system at the same time. None of these guys may ever make it to being “Super Stars”, but I can’t see any of them not at least being average, everyday players.

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        The 2006 D’Backs had:
        #2 Justin Upton
        #5 Stephen Drew
        #17 Conor Jackson
        #20 Carlos Quentin
        #23 Chris Young
        #32 Carlos Gonzalez

        2011 Royals:
        #8 Eric Hosmer
        #9 Mike Moustakas
        #10 Wil Myers
        #18 John Lamb
        #19 Mike Montgomery

        • BluBlud

          I’m not talking about rankings, I was speaking more of talent. A guy can be rank 18th one year, and still be better then the guy who was rank #4 another year. Bt I do see your point though.

          However, if you just look at that class from Arizona and going off the top of my head, it looks as if they all turned out to be at least average.

          • Bails17

            What do you think the ranking actually mean?

  • Diamondrock

    I was really hoping you’d mention Matheny’s hilarious hissy fit from last night in the Bullets.

  • cubzforlife

    Tom Tunney cries after getting Rahmed. Really, tears. Beth must of been tugging on his cojones.

  • North Side Irish

    From Buster Olney’s column this morning…

    There is some buzz in the industry that the Rangers and Cardinals are the teams most likely to land Matt Garza, but really, it will all come down to which team is willing to surrender a high-end package requested by the Cubs. After a rush of trade talk in late June, it has been quieter in a lot of corners lately.

    • On The Farm

      The Cardinals are the team that is calling in on Garza? Say it ain’t so..

      • Hee Seop Chode

        The Cards have a deep system, and could offer a tremendous bounty. Fans should care more about whom the Cubs receive than from whom they receive it.

        • Randy

          That and the fact that if the Cards resign him, he could be tearing up the Cubs a couple times a year over the next few seasons

          • Jon

            That’s nothing to be concerned about, if they offer the best package for Garza.

            • willis

              Sure there is. Garza has more talent than most of the pitchers that organization has turned into studs. They would re-sign him and make him a super badass, haunting the cubs for years to come. He would dominate us and lead them to even more division titles while we wilt in fourth place. No thanks, I don’t give a crap what the return is.

              • Randy

                Totally agree. Get him around their pitching coaches? Forget it… Plus, I can’t think of the last time the Cardinals dealt prospects that ever ended up being good for the teams they were traded to. Their talent evaluation is too good to give up actual projectable talent to a rival.

        • On The Farm

          I just have this fear that if we make a deal with them, somehow the prospect we get from them will be the only one of their elite system that doesn’t pan out.

          • JB88

            That seems to be the way it typically is when the Cards are involved in a trade.

            • On The Farm

              The Brett Wallace trade comes to mind when I think of the Cards, even when you think you are getting a solid guy he ends up not producing.

    • scorecardpaul

      I don’t buy all of the trade him and then resign him talk, but he might become one of my favorite Cubs if he could screw the St Louis team like that

  • Frank

    I have to admit for the first two months the only words out of my mouth concerning Edwin Jackson were WTF. What the hell was the FO thinking when they signed him? It seems that when he keeps his focus, he’s quite a pitcher, so my wife will get some peace and not have to listen to my whining.

  • BleedCubbieBlue

    I’d be interested in seeing a comparison of what we gave up for him to what we got in return for him.

    • BleedCubbieBlue

      I’m referring to Matt Garza.

      • PKJ

        Archer is now starting for the Rays. We should expect the Cubs to at least get that much in return, right?

  • Jono

    “…you decry as a “bust” after two months of pitching into a four-year contract”

    Right here, that was me. I admit it. At least it was a longer contract with plenty of time, not one of the one year flip contracts.

    I wonder if my avatar has kicked in yet

  • Caleb

    No, the BEST quote out of the almora piece is when they’re talking about the big four and winning the World Series. Almora says: “sooner or later, were coming.”

    HEAR THAT BASEBALL WORLD?

    • hansman1982

      To be fair, leaving it at that gives the Cubs the rest of eternity to win the WS.

  • Tony S

    What are the updates on the prospects we traded to the Rays for Garza. Haven’t heard much on anyone but Archer who seems to have the upside of a 3 or 4 starter.

    • PKJ

      Hak-Ju Lee has nasty knee issues and is injured. Robinson Chirinos is now in the Rangers system. Brandon Guyer is a journeyman AAAA guy.

      Chris Archer is the prize of this trade. He’s looked very good over the past four starts for the Rays.

      • CubFan Paul

        Horrible trade from the Rays end. Theo&Co could probably top it with one prospect from a Garza deal.

        • Jono

          Garza should get back a pitcher better than Archer? That would be amazing…unless I’m overestimating Archer and underestimating Garza’s expected return

          • On The Farm

            Archer was a Top 50 guy, not sure if they will be able to get that for Garza, but it could happen with a package

            • Jono

              yea, that’s what I thought. I guess i’m not as big of an idiot as me think to be

      • Cedlandrum

        I like Guyer actually. I think he needs another shot, because it was an injury that has him looking like a AAAA rather then the very good bench player he should have been.

  • CubFan Paul

    I like how Sveum didn’t talk about babip or luck when referring to EJax.

    Make pitches. Don’t Suck. Conviction (I guess).

  • davidalanu

    I saw Vogelbach in South Bend last night, and he looks like he’s continued to slim down. Almora looked like a guy who just knew he was going to get a hit, and just stroked line drives with a nice, easy swing. Giuseppe Papaccio is a good-sized shortstop who looks (to my untrained eye) like someone to watch, although he is a bit old for the league.

  • http://vdcinc.biz 70’scub

    Last night Ejax passed the eye test, had conviction, and displayed TWTW!

  • mudge

    Sveum when he talks about conviction is likely referring to the quality of the pitches, not Jackson’s attitude. Someone else might say “he was throwing the fastball with authority.” Sveum’s got his own way of talking. He recently referred to “the cosmetics of the team,” which you might translate as “the make-up of the team,” or “the composition of the team,” but nobody else in the world would put it that way.

  • jt

    “Jackson is better, and has been better, than a 5+ ERA suggests”
    –Brett
    *
    Sequence and distribution matters.
    Jackson’s OPS bases empty is 0.719
    ……………………runners on is 0.790
    *
    does that indicate that he has trouble pitching from the stretch or does it indicate he lacks command in those innings he allows base runners and allows base runners in those innings because he lacks the command he displays during the rest of the game?
    *
    If a pitcher allows 9 pitches in hit-able areas during a game the results may greatly differ if they are 1 in each IP or if they are concentrated in 1 inning.
    *
    Perhaps I am wrong, but is seems that in the innings where he gives up multiple runs the catcher’s mitt is darting all over the place. It also seems that when he is getting outs he is a lot closer to hitting the caters set-up.

    • Eternal pessemist

      This is a good point. Some of these advanced stats don’t take into account a pitchers situational pitching limitations. Can’t just chalk it up to bad luck, though i believe EJ has had his share. Looked great yesterday!

  • ssckelley

    The minimum return for Garza is a compensation pick in the first round of next years draft if they do not trade him. A player selected in those picks are really a hit and miss, the Cubs could get a top 100 prospect or end up with a organizational guy. From my perspective getting even one top 100 prospect in return for Garza is the baseline on what to expect in return, anything beyond that is gravy. In Garza you got someone who can pitch like a 1 or a 2, staying healthy has been the only concern. I think he has proved he is healthy and could make an impact on a team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs.

    I think a fair return would be:
    – a top 100 (overall), not fringy but close or better than top 50
    – a top 20 from a decent farm system
    – a fringy (high ceiling) type of prospect

    Does that seem reasonable?

    Ideally, in my perfect world, sign Garza to an extension and just forget about all this trade talk.

  • jpeck

    EJax has always been a slow starter. I don’t have the stats, but after the break numbers
    Are a lot better. Let’s hope it continues.

  • Alex S.

    Could someone fill me in on who the other 7 of that Top 10 Pitchers by stuff are? (preferably in order)

  • CubsFaninMS

    I haven’t had time to read everyone’s response above. I respect Keith Law’s opinion in general but, with all due respect, I don’t believe he’s in a position to judge Baez’s promotion as well as our front office and coaching staff. They know what his specific needs are. The promotion may be a little “quick”, but they did not promote our highest-ranked prospect on a whim. They did it for a reason. If I were to guess, it would be because he needs to be challenged to develop his attitude and approach mentally towards the game. That’s the side of him that seems to be lacking a bit.

  • Cheese Chad

    I just got done reading the ESPN article that Brett linked in the article. If you have gotten this far and not read it, please do. I’ve been a Cubs fan since I was 7 and since then have understood the heartbreak of a team who hasn’t won a world series in generations. When I was a kid I loved going to my Grandparents house after school with my cousin to watch the Cubs because they played all afternoon games back then it seemed. Despite the (what seemed like) day old popcorn and iced tea (it was seriously that or water and I hated iced tea), it was one of my favorite things to do. Even though we had never seen them win the world series it was still enjoyable. As I’ve gotten older and developed the natural instinct that winning sometimes is more fun than playing the game, it stings every year to see someone else win it all. To see Almora talk about that being the ultimate goal, it gives me goosebumps. If feels like these kids are all knowingly involved in something bigger than themselves and they are completely ready for the challenge. Stay tuned Cubs fans, this could be a fun 10 years.

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